Credit rating agencies

Regulating the Credit Rating Agencies? Less Would be More

Guest post by Prof. Lawrence J. White, Robert Kavesh Professor in Economics, NYU Stern School of Business

The major credit rating agencies (CRAs)—Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s (S&P), and Fitch—contributed significantly to the financial crisis of 2007-09. Their excessively high initial ratings of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) helped fuel the bubble of mortgage finance that ultimately burst, with near catastrophic consequences for the U.S. financial sector.

These disastrous failings motivated the post-crisis urge to tighten regulation of the CRAs. It’s not hard to share the (metaphorical) desire—reflected in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010—to grab them by the lapels and shout “Do a better job!” 

There is, however, a better way, albeit one that is less intuitive and possibly less gratifying: namely, eliminate—or at least greatly reduce—the regulation of the CRAs. This would encourage entry into the credit rating business, stimulate innovation and, eventually, improve the efficiency of capital markets....

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Credit ratings and conflicts of interest

That overly optimistic credit ratings contributed significantly to the Great Financial Crisis is now widely acknowledged (see, for example, here and here). One welcome result has been a wave of research that highlights the influence of biased credit ratings on the real economy and identifies potential remedies. In this note, we examine stylized facts about ratings performance that emerge from this new work; discuss the economic impact of ratings; and, finally, consider remedies for conflicts of interest that contribute to the problem...

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